Pasco School District officials were sighing with relief Wednesday night after a new Franklin County ballot tally showed the district's $46.8 million bond passing.
Almost 62 percent of the more than 11,500 voters who returned ballots supported the bond. Bonds require at least 60 percent approval to pass.
There still are 125 ballots left to be sorted and counted. The election won't be certified and official until Feb. 26. However, Franklin County Auditor Matt Beaton said those remaining ballots won't change the outcome.
The bond will pay for two new elementary schools and an early learning center, along with several other projects around the district. The construction is meant to ease the overcrowding affecting almost every public school in Pasco.
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District officials and bond supporters had long faces Tuesday night, when initial returns showed the bond with only a little more than 59 percent approval with about 1,500 ballots remaining. A few people said they didn't expect those remaining votes to swing in the bond's favor.
However, Superintendent Saundra Hill called for patience until all the ballots were counted. She lauded the community Wednesday.
"We are delighted that our community members were able to wade through the myths and get to the truth of the matter," Hill said in a release. "The district is out of space and desperately needs these schools. We are grateful to everyone who lent their support to this effort."
Mike Miller, chairman of Pasco Citizens for Better Schools, said Tuesday night "we were wondering what more we could do" after seeing the first returns. He had said he would chalk up the bond's possible defeat to voter concern over taxes, but was glad the community came through.
Miller said that even in the face of the bond's possible failure, he received calls from individuals and groups in the Tri-Cities ready to step up and support another bond proposal if necessary.
"I'm glad I don't have to go through a second round on this," he said.
Assistant superintendent John Morgan said the district already is poised to move forward with construction. Sites have been selected and preliminary building plans are set. The bond's approval means he and others can now rush out the starting gate.
"(Thursday) morning we start down the path," he said.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver